Sunday, May 26, 2013

Reader's Bill of Rights, Reviewed and Revised

Back in the early '90's, Daniel Pennac composed the Reader's Bill of Rights.

(1) The right to not read.

To this I respond with a quote from J.K. Rowling, If you don’t like to read you haven’t found the right book.

Okay, so I get what Mr. Pennac is saying.  Everyone has the right not to read.  We don't live in a society which forces people to read, but I don't understand why people don't read, at least something. You don't have to read Ulysses, but you should read something--magazines, blog posts, comic books, I don't care--just so you can claim to be part of the human race. Telling and listening to stories are inherent in our genetics. I want to believe that people who don't read are lazy, but that's absolutely not true. I know many people who don't read, some more active, more productive, more intelligent than I am. But I don't understand them.

I learn so much from reading, about other people, about other places.  About myself.  So why not read?

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul.”   ―Joyce Carol Oates

“Bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it's an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.” ―Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n, The Shadow of the Wind

(2) The right to skip pages.   

...or whole sections.

I rarely skip pages, and only once or twice skipped sections, but if the story is good but the prose is bad or long and drawn out, I will not hesitate to skip over however much is needed.  Tolkien is a perfect example.  Great story, but every time he goes into a page long description of a leaf or records a three page song, I just skip right over it.

(3) The right to not finish.

...or to not even get started.

Now days, I usually read the first few pages of a new-to-me author. If the prose is off-putting, I usually won't buy the book.  Actually, most of the time now, I get recommendations from other readers before purchasing a book.  I got burned a couple of times--it was a very inexpensive burning, more of a waste of time than anything else--on Kindle sale books.

To quote Nancy Pearl, model for the Librarian Action Figure, If you still don't like a book after slogging through the first 50 pages, set it aside. If you're more than 50 years old, subtract your age from 100 and only grant it that many pages.

I've heard her quote paraphrased as There are too many good books and not enough time in our life to worry about finishing boring books. 

(4) The right to reread.
(5) The right to read anything.

All I can say is absolutely! I totally agree.

(6) The right to escapism. 

Considering our current society where people text while driving, I think this one needs a caveat.  You have the right to escapism as long as it doesn't endanger someone else's life.

“Books don't offer real escape, but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw.”  ―David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

(7) The right to read anywhere.

Umm, see exception to #6.  Reading has the same rules as narcotics, which they certainly can be.  Don't read while operating heavy machinery.  Plus, don't be rude and read at the dinner table, unless you're at home with your boring parents or your boring spouse.

And a caveat for anyone who ever sits next to me on airplanes, if I'm reading a book, I don't want to talk to you or hear to you talk to me.  I'm using #6 to make me forget about the long, tedious flight.  [90% of my flights have been for work to some po'dunk town four hours away by plane.]

(8) The right to browse.

To be honest, I'm not sure what this means.  But here's my take on it.  I can read any genre I want.

I can also stand in the book store and read the first few pages, but I should not read a whole book in the book store.  It's not a f'ing library.  If you want to read free books, go to the library.  Nothing annoys me more than to pick up a book in the book store that has its back broken.  That's stealing folks!

(9) The right to read out loud.

Depends on your audience.  It can be quite fun to read aloud in the right situation.  My last boyfriend would read aloud to me, and I enjoyed it quite a lot.  But I'm not particularly fond of hearing just anyone trying to read aloud.  Some people can.  I can't.  I stumble over too many words due to a big problem with dyslexia.  So, sure, read aloud to your pets, or your kids, or your spouse, or even at the old folks home [they usually can't hear you anyway], but if you're in the book store [or library] or a restaurant or a pub or on the bus or on an airplane or just sitting next to me, read with your mouth closed.

(10) The right to not defend your tastes.

True as long as you understand that is a two-way street.


So read, people, read.  It's good for you.

With all that said, I'll leave you with one final quote.

“Cram your head with characters and stories. Abuse your library privileges. Never stop looking at the world, and never stop reading to find out what sense other people have made of it. If people give you a hard time and tell you to get your nose out of a book, tell them you're working. Tell them it's research. Tell them to pipe down and leave you alone.”   ―Jennifer Weiner

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed this post!! Could not agree with you more regarding the airplane comments. I also put on my sound-cancelling headphones and that seems to be effective in preventing conversation whether or not there is actually music being played.
    - Ken